Safe Return Update for Staff: Developing Safe Return Unit Plans

June 23, 2020 @  9:19 a.m.

Dear CU Denver Staff Member,

We are now several weeks into the implementation of CU Denver's Safe Return Plan and we have made good progress in many areas. The Safe Return website has been launched and new content is added regularly. Research and creative activities are beginning to resume on campus, with new safety protocols in place. Schools and colleges are working quickly to identify the proper formats for fall courses, with plans to inform our students of the formats by early July. We know there is still a lot of work to be done and we are grateful for your continued collaboration and guidance in this process.

We also know that a successful fall semester is not possible for our students and faculty without support and guidance from CU Denver staff. Therefore, it is important that we begin planning our on-campus staff presence for this fall. Just as our faculty and student presence on campus will look different this fall, so will staff presence.

As you know from our financial town halls and communiques, fall enrollment is a critical component of our financial health. Your role in this is important. Together, we need to create a welcoming, safe environment for our students and one that can change from on-campus to remote seamlessly if the public health situation changes throughout the semester. A successful service unit will provide confidence to students, faculty, and fellow staff that we are in this together and all working toward the same goal: a healthy and safe environment that can flexibly provide opportunities for learning and supports so our students can maintain uninterrupted momentum toward their educational goals.

Your input is vital to our planning effort. Faculty have given recommendations and made decisions about the best course format for their classes, and students will also be making decisions about the course formats that work best for them. We will also need staff to make recommendations and decisions about the best way to deliver the essential services your unit provides to the university community. This is an opportunity to reimagine delivery in our current, unique circumstances.

How do we do this? At this time, we're asking each unit to consider which of their services are best delivered on campus, which can be delivered remotely, and what combination of in-person and remote will best meet the needs of our students, staff, and faculty this fall. The modality of service offerings may vary from unit to unit, depending on your unit's mission, role, and the needs of the groups you support. Your team will also need to think about how to organize your physical office space and innovative ways to schedule service delivery so that we can prioritize everyone's safety.

The first step in this process is that all staff units should now begin (or continue) internal discussions about essential service delivery for the fall. Below are guiding principles and guiding questions to aid in your unit discussions:

Guiding Principles

  • Maintaining and following public health guidelines is paramount. Familiarize yourself with the most up-to-date campus safety protocols. (Note that these may be adjusted as the COVID-19 situation evolves.)
  • Our priority during this unique time is to maintain the high standard of an unparalleled student experience in all aspects of our delivery, whether in-person or virtual.
  • The staff in each of the units are in the best position to define the in-person services each unit needs to provide, for students and faculty, to meet their needs and ensure a high-quality teaching and learning experience.
  • We are not planning for our staff presence to be at full capacity. Many staff will remain working remotely. The percentage of staff returning for your unit will depend on the outcomes of this planning process.
  • Staff unit return dates to campus will vary by unit because preparation time requirements for fall semester will vary by unit. However, late July is the earliest we currently anticipate any unit would need to return to campus to prepare.
  • Central units that support both the Denver and Anschutz campuses are advised that guidance will differ for the Anschutz campus and each unit should plan accordingly with their leadership team.
  • Employees who are required to deliver essential services in-person yet have health considerations preventing them from returning to campus may contact their supervisor to discuss the situation or they may contact Human Resources for a confidential conversation.
  • Units will need to plan to be flexible in case public health circumstances change and the campus needs to resume operating primarily remotely.

Guiding Questions

  • Please think about the essential services that must be performed on campus your unit provides. How can you provide those efficiently and safely?
  • How can you use existing technology to support your unit’s return?
  • How will you respond to “walk-ins” while also directing support needs and inquiries to virtual environments?
  • What is the on-campus staffing your unit will need in order to meet those essential requirements? How will needs be met with a minimal staffing presence? How will you rotate staff from the remote to on-campus environments equitably to deliver those essential services?
  • How will staff have the equipment they need in their remote environment as well as the office environment?

Unit leaders, please prioritize developing preliminary plans for a unit safe return with your team now and vet those preliminary plans with your leadership. A Staff Unit Return guide (currently being finalized, to be sent to you by early July) will provide a step-by-step process on how to turn your preliminary plan into a Safe Return Unit Plan ready to submit for approval. It will include guidance on how to establish your unit’s Safe Return Team, Resources, Safety Guidance, and provide directions for creating and submitting your unit plan.

These Safe Return Unit Plans will need to take into account the various health, family, and logistical circumstances of each staff member while being fair to everyone, maintaining appropriate safety protocols, and delivering high-quality services. The plans will be reviewed by your unit and division leadership with final approval required by the Safe Return Team.

The university will also be sending out a general survey to staff in early July so that we can better understand the general needs, challenges, resource needs, and other relevant information for all staff across the campus. But no survey can replace these critical unit planning discussions that you will have now. Thus, you are advised to begin them without delay and to raise concerns to your leadership as they arise.

Thank you for all that you do for CU Denver. Your professionalism and ability to change your modes of working in March to adapt to a remote environment have truly been impressive. We know that with your support, our faculty and students will have a successful fall semester.

Stay tuned for more information and please do not hesitate to reach out to our Safe Return Team at with any questions.

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Dorothy Horrell

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